Monday, July 11, 2005

A different take on Luttig

(Yes, more on the Supreme Court. Please bear with me. It's an important story, and I'll no doubt continue to write about it extensively, but, as always, I'll try to keep The Reaction interesting with a diverse array of posts in the coming days and weeks.)

Amba of the wonderful AmbivaBlog (and a great friend of The Reaction) linked to a different take on Luttig in a comment to my last post. Amba, in contrast to Julie Saltman, finds Luttig "trustworthy," "the kind of judge you want (or ought to want) on the Supreme Court." From a Chicago Tribune piece on Luttig:
As a judge, Luttig is widely considered an ardent conservative, but his record reveals his independence, as do recent analyses of his opinions by several political scientists. He has stressed, to his law clerks and in a recent speech, intellectual honesty and adherence to precedent. He tells law clerks they will be fired if they fail to show him contradicting authority on a particular issue or tell him exactly how they view the case, even if they do not share his views. His clerks praise him as a teacher -- and 40 of 42 have gone on to clerk at the Supreme Court, an unparalleled placement record.

Luttig has been highly critical of judicial activism on both sides of the ideological spectrum, in which he believes judges have decided cases based on a desired outcome instead of adhering to established law and taking that where it leads.

Well, that's promising, is it not? I've already indicated that I support Gonzales among the leading candidates to replace O'Connor, but if a second spot opens up -- and Rehnquist's retirement may be imminent -- perhaps Luttig wouldn't be such a bad choice. After all, we're not about to get a liberal or even moderate nominee. Bush will only nominate conservatives -- and even Gonzales is a conservative -- but I'd much rather have a real conservative who respects the law, who is independent, who rejects judicial activism, and who isn't out to destroy the liberal state than an unpredictable right-wing radical.

Julie may still be right that Luttig would vote to overturn Roe (and that's obviously a serious concern), but, as I do more and more research on the leading candidates, it seems to me that Luttig could (I'm not yet willing to commit) be an acceptable replacement for a conservative justice like Rehnquist -- as long as he's twinned with a relative moderate like Gonzales to replace the relatively moderate O'Connor. The right will no doubt continue to push for two hard-line conservatives to shift the balance of the Court to the right, but, at this point, I'd be willing to settle for Gonzales and Luttig.

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